Jonathan Sockell

How can you make a customer happier if they won’t bother to tell you what’s wrong?

Perhaps customers aren’t responding because they don’t think your company will read or take action on the feedback. Perhaps they think their voice is an insignificant drop of water compared to the masses. Or perhaps they’re so frustrated that they plan to never return again — so why bother giving feedback?

Maximizing the amount of feedback you get often comes down to reducing the friction between a customer and a completed survey. The obvious reasons for this are that: 1. You boost survey volume; 2. You capture a broader set of demographics; and 3. You are therefore able to paint an adequate picture about the health of your brand and service experience.

There’s another, obvious (yet far less intuitive) benefit to limiting friction: It reduces the number of non-survey-responders. Isn’t this just a different way of saying that you’re getting more responses? Not exactly — because it doesn’t take into account the significance of non-responders themselves. It might go without saying that these are customers who are typically the least engaged with and loyal to your brand — but they may be more harmful to your business than you think.

From collecting hundreds of millions of surveys, we discovered that, as we created more and more ways to reduce friction (for example, via mobile feedback), we brought in a whole new wave of customers. When this happened, the unanticipated consequence was that it resulted in universally lower scores compared to historical averages. We had tapped an entirely new group of customers.

This should tell you something: People who would traditionally be non-responders leave lower survey scores than those already engaged (i.e. non-responders are even more displeased than those who leave you 1s, 2s, and 3s on surveys).

These folks aren’t just less happy, they’re less spendy. Proof: Steve Bernstein from Waypoint Group (specializes in B2B feedback programs), joined us for a webinar in which he cited a project his group undertook for a B2B company in Texas. They discovered that detractors spent 7x more than non-responders. Detractors they found, though dissatisfied, still had skin in the game and wanted to share feedback in the hope of bringing positive change. Non-responders, however, were checked out, not spending money, and gearing up for a switch.

If these non-responders are less engaged with your brand and spending less because of some underlying issue they’re not telling you about, how can you make them happier? Well, unless you can get them to start responding, it’s not going to be easy. Removing friction will be a big step in getting them more engaged in providing feedback; but what else can you do? First and foremost, you need your customers to feel that their voices will be heard and responded to. You might need a little help from the Marketing or Communications teams to get that word out there; you can also encourage frontline employees to start engaging customers more around the value of feedback. Simply giving a survey response might not immediately change a traditional non-responder’s spending habits, but now they’ve “got a stake” in your business so to speak — and you now have the data to improve their experience.

Though we believe in building toward a world where all your customers are happy all the time, it’s still likely that some people will go on being non-responders, and you’ll want to forecast their financial impact on your business. One way we help our clients do this is by tying revenue change to loyalty measures. We’ve seen this be a popular strategy in B2B companies, as well as in any others that are able to effectively connect operational measures to their CEM program. Take a look at the following example of some of the reporting we do for these types of companies:

Bottom line: Reducing survey response friction is not just important in terms of getting more surveys, but also in reducing the number of non-responders. By doing so, companies have the opportunity to make a silently frustrated customer happier and more engaged — and thus a bigger spender.

Photo credit: Michael